The limits of imagination

Many would think of authors as having limitless imaginations. We can imagine amazing futures, fantastical worlds, utopias, dystopias, magics, stuff that we call science that is actually just more magic, but we can’t imagine a rich person as wealthy as actual rich people.

That’s right when it came to thinking of massive piles of money that a fictional character would go swimming through, it didn’t amount to as much money as our actual wealthiest people.

Fictional 15 richest

  1. Scrooge McDuck – $65.4 billion
  2. Smaug – $54.1 billion
  3. Carlisle Cullen – $46.0 billion
  4. Tony Stark – $12.4 billion
  5. Charles Foster Kane – $11.2 billion
  6. Bruce Wayne – $9.2 billion
  7. Richie Rich – $5.8 billion
  8. Christian Grey – $2.2 billion
  9. Tywin Lannister – $1.8 billion
  10. C. Montgomery Burns – $1.5 billion
  11. Walden Schmidt – $1.3 billion
  12. Lara Croft – $1.3 billion
  13. Mr Monopoly – $1.2 billion
  14. Lady Mary Crawley – $1.1 billion
  15. Jay Gatsby – $1.0 billion (Source: Fictional 15, 2013) Total = $215.5 billion

Let’s compare that to the real-life Richie McRiches.

Real 15 richest

  1. Jeff Bezos – $131 billion
  2. Bill Gates – $96.5 billion
  3. Warren Buffett – $82.5 billion
  4. Bernard Arnault (and family) – $76 billion
  5. Carlos Slim Helu (and family) – $64 billion
  6. Amancio Ortega – $62.7 billion
  7. Larry Ellison – $62.5 billion
  8. Mark Zuckerberg – $62.3 billion
  9. Michael Bloomberg – $55.5 billion
  10. Larry Page – $50.8 billion
  11. Charles ‘f@#k the environment’ Koch – $50.5 billion
  12. David ‘f@#k poor people’ Koch – $50.5 billion
  13. Mukesh Ambani – $50 billion
  14. Sergey Brin – $49.8 billion
  15. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers (and family) – $49.3 billion (Source) Total = $993.9 billion

On the fictional list, we have a literal 350-year-old blood-sucking parasite who had several lifetimes to accumulate his wealth. Another is the image we conjure up when we think of rich people. One character even has rich in his name twice. Yet for all of their billions, they aren’t matching it with the real-life billionaires.

It says something that the richest fictional character has half as much money as the richest man in the real world. And the total worth of the Top 15s couldn’t be more different. All of the world’s authors couldn’t come up with a list of the wealthiest characters with as much money as their real-life counterparts ($215 vs $994 billion!!).

But the worst part is the real-life billionaires. Do we see Jeff Bezos swimming in a giant vault of money? Does he even own a giant vault? What type of pathetic billionaire is he? Too busy stopping his workers unionising to enjoy a swim in his money is what he is. Bill Gates has not once tried to scare dwarves away from his mountain of gold, on the plus side, he isn’t a gold hoarding dragon. And will we ever see the Warren Buffet spanking a college newspaper reporter sex tape, and will that be hotter than the 50 Shades of Grey movies?

What about superheroes? Zuckerberg isn’t donning a cowl and fighting crime, he’s too busy selling elections. Tony Stark was fighting to save the planet, the Koch brothers only seem to have time to see the planet burn. Would it kill them both – or at least one more – to try to build an arc reactor?

Authors may not be able to imagine ridiculous levels of wealth for their characters, but billionaires seem equally unable to imagine doing something worthwhile with their billions.

Bah, humbug

It is the season to be jolly, apparently. The jolliest people are, of course, retailers, who are doing their impersonations of Scrooge McDuck swimming. The rest of us are just happy to have some time off work and an excuse to eat until our arteries congeal and drink until the tile floor looks comfy.

Don’t get me wrong, Xmas is a lovely time of year, but I have some issues with it.

1) It’s Xmas not Christmas.
This celebration stopped being about Christ’s birthday when shops started advertising how many shopping days there were left before Xmas. I’m glad we have the holiday but lets stop pretending it is a religious holiday. To the 16% of Australian’s (check your country stats here) who actually attend church, feel free to ignore this point. And yes I’m aware of the irony here.

2) Xmas cards.
I understand the idea of sending correspondence to family and friends and given the “holiday season” it only seems logical to catch up with people. But I’m under 40, so I have Facebook, Twitter, Email, Linkedin, mobile phones, and know how to use them. Sending cards feels like people the world over are taking a vow of technophobia in order to contract hand cramps and level a rain forest.

3) Xmas lights.
I think the goal of Xmas lights, if I am understanding them correctly, is blind people in the space station orbiting Earth. In the day and age of climate change, when we really should be cutting down on energy usage, we decide to set up a whole lot of lights to blind people. It has become a competition between neighbours and streets to see who can have the most gaudy display of flashing eyesores. The winner is usually the person or street who wake up to the electricity bill in January realising they need a second job and to sell a kidney.

4) Caroling.
Why is it that people only remember for the other eleven months of the year that they can’t sing?
Which also brings me to:

5) Xmas songs.
I’m not talking about the traditional carols here, I’m talking about the saccharine odes to love and presents that bombard the airwaves from every pop singer/group the world has to offer. These “artists” were barely tolerable in small doses as it was, but the competition to have the highest selling drink coaster means you can’t even go near a TV or radio for fear of diabetes and the desire to hug a puppy.

6) The celebrity biography.
Speaking of stocking stuffers, every Xmas there must be more celebrity biographies bought for Dads the world over than any other time of year. In fact, it is safe to say that the book reading statistics are built on this Xmas tradition of buying a book no-one wants to read for people who don’t read in the first place. Is it really a surprise that so few people read when the only book they start each year is about the mundane life of somebody with decent hand-eye coordination or a backstabbing politician proposing to tell all, but really just relating the party political line of events. I’d prefer the socks.

With that said, Merry Xmas everyone!

Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket.